Sept. 11, 2017 Message to the Methodist Ladies Aid

I was asked a few weeks ago if I would speak to the Methodist Ladies Aid for their September bring a friend night. I agreed and since it was the 16th Anniversary of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon and the one that was maneuvered to a field in PA, I decided to do the following. Thoughts and prayers with the families of those who were lost on this day, including those who were misguided enough to instigate the attack.

Verse for this evening is: Isaiah 6:8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

I will start by giving you a little more information about myself: As many of you know, I was born right here in Eureka. My parents were Raymond and Patricia Knoepfle. I grew up on a farm south of Artas (here I mentioned by name those in the room who were close neighbors) and then in Herreid were I graduated from high school a few years back. I married James Haak who is from the Hull area which is a little south of Strasburg. We have lived in Eagle Butte, South Dakota and Jamestown, North Dakota before we moved back to Herreid.

When Mavis first called, I asked her what you were looking for in terms of a topic, and she more or less said whatever. After the second time she called and I agreed to come here, I hung up the phone and thought, what on earth will I say? But I do remember she hinted that maybe I could talk about how I came to be here at St. Paul’s at this time in my life.

Before I tell you anything else, I have to mention that I have just spent the last couple of days watching the coverage of the Hurricane in Florida and I don’t mean just the nightly news or a couple of hours of the coverage between doing this or that. I must be one, of the people, who gives that sort of coverage good ratings because I become glued to the television in events like that. I spent time watching the one in Houston too, but that coverage was not quite as intense. Anyway it reminded me of a few years ago watching the events of Katrina. And from there I began to think of all those other major events that have happened throughout the years.

So here is where I want to begin tonight. When I looked at the calendar, and I realized that today it is the 16th anniversary of the day when the planes flew into the towers in New York City and the Pentagon and the fourth plane which landed in a field in Somerset County, PA. It is safe to say that was the worst attack on the United States by outsiders since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This was one of those days that many of us will remember exactly where we were when we first heard about it. I remember that I was headed for the Prairie Pioneer office in Pollock and saw it on the Today Show as I was getting ready to leave. We heard about it only from reports on the radio the rest of the day because we had no TV in the office.

The more I got to thinking about this idea of where were you when, I started to think of other times other events that were so overwhelming that you always remember where you were when you heard about them.

Some that come to mind for me were:

Nov. 22, 63—JFK  I remember sitting on the couch watching my mother change my baby brother’s diaper as we watched the evening news report.

April 4, 68—MLKing, Jr. I was riding in car in the front between my mother and someone and we heard it on the car radio. I remember saying oh good and my mother asking what I meant and I sort of indicated that I thought we didn’t like people who were different, and I think maybe after that conversations were a little different, though maybe it was that I finally understood about accepting all people.

June 5, 68—Bobby Kennedy, I watched this on the little black and white TV in the kitchen of the farm house. It devastated me. I was just starting to understand politics and what he stood for, I was 11 and this was a big deal to me.

July of 1969 Moonwalk—Saw it on that same black/white small tv at the farm…I remember that some did not believe we were on the moon, some thought they were in a studio in the southwestern part of the US.

More recently, Aug. 31, 97 death of Princess Di I was out in the flower garden when I heard.

More personally, Dec. 31, 63, the death of my brother. I remember my father came screaming into the house when he found his body at the end of the silo’s auger.

Friday of Labor Day weekend in 1985. I was in Eagle Butte out on the football field with my PE class. The principal came and got me and said there was a phone call that I had to take. It was the news of the car accident 9 months and many surgeries later took away my grandmother Freda. I still dislike phone calls in school.

As I think about these dates and others that were memorable in my life or in anyone’s life, I wonder if we remember the day and the place where we were when we made a public or at least a conscious decision to follow Christianity. Do we know where we were when we decided to accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior? I remember attending Sunday School and especially I enjoyed vacation Bible School. A couple of weeks ago in church we sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” and that was always the song we sang walking in from the outside steps to the opening session. I remember having a day when I raised my hand during the opening session of VBS, and while the others went downstairs to their classes, I had a short meeting with the minister about what that meant to raise my hand and that I wanted to accept Christ, and we had a prayer and that was that.

Now what I experienced in VBS, is not something that we really do as part of our denomination. We normally leave that sort of soul searching and commitment for confirmation in our church. I went through confirmation classes as part of the Herreid Yoked Parish which included the Peace Lutheran Church the United Methodist Church and First Congregational where I was confirmed as a freshman in high school. Only the Lutheran Congregation is left there today.

Let me just say that church was always an important place for me. Besides what I have already shared, I always enjoyed helping out in our church as a youngster even if it was washing dished during after the meal we had at Mission Fest. Here I paused to explain how I was always about 10 years too young to have an opinion while being part of the women’s group, which was true in every place except Eagle Butte where young women were welcomed with open arms. I even told how I had been “taught” to make a ham bun for a funeral in Jamestown until I told the lady that my mother did catering and I had helped a time or two.

In high school I was part of youth group and as such was able to attend a National Luther League Convention in Houston at the AstroDome and that was a great experience, but don’t get me wrong, just because I was active in church, I wasn’t a goody two shoes, but I always felt a tug of some kind.

Later when I got to know the Bible better I was intrigued by the story of young Samuel in I Samuel chapter 3 when he kept hearing a voice and kept going into Eli asking what he wanted until Eli finally realized that Samuel was being called by God, and Eli told him to go back to his own room and the next time he heard the call to answer God and listen to what he was called to do.

College for me was Jamestown College [now University of Jamestown] a private Presbyterian College. I went there with the idea of being a teacher and a coach, and so I majored in Health, Physical Education and Recreation and joined the volleyball and track teams. It was the time of title IX and because I really liked sports, I thought this was what I would always want to do. Yet somehow that wasn’t enough and I also took a second major in Religion/Philosophy with the idea that maybe, someday, down the line, I would come back to that idea.

Over the years I was on different boards or held offices in the churches we belonged to. James and I were the youth leaders in Jamestown and I was even held some offices at the state level for our church then a program opened up for lay people to go through training to become licensed to help our churches find someone to fill the pulpits while the regular ministers were gone for vacations or meetings or whatever reasons, and I decided to participate and I did pulpit supply around North Dakota while we lived in Jamestown and in a few area churches when we moved back here.

You know that saying about when God closes a door he opens a window. I think that has been going on most of my life, but I was not paying attention. Every time something about my coaching or teaching career didn’t go exactly as planned, I would pick up and try something else. I often told myself it was just me getting bored and moving on. Well the last time that I taught full time was in Mobridge the year 2010-11. Our youngest daughter was a sophomore and we would have to leave Herreid every morning at 7 a.m. sharp and often were not home till 9 or 10 at night. That year they were redoing Main Street in Herreid and it was foggy most mornings and often dark when we left. There were times I would have to get out of the car and walk in front of it to see if the road was open. (I gave lots more details here, but maybe some other time)

Then the winter was a series of snow storms and I think I finally realized the God wasn’t closing a door, this time God was slamming a window shut and opening up a set of patio doors and pushing me through. It was time to listen to God’s call for me, and I am very glad that it worked out as it did. I am lucky that I am still able to work with youngsters while doing a little substituting, but I really don’t miss the hassle of teaching full time.

My point of my telling this story about myself is that God has a plan for all of us. Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Yes the historical context of this verse was for the Israelites when they were in exile, [read Jeremiah 29:10-14] but this passage is also for us to know that God really does care for all of us for each of us, and that we need to take time to listen to what those plans are so that we don’t spend our whole lives running in circles trying to figure out who we are and what we should be doing.

This past week I came upon a line from a book that I think I will have to order. The author, Anna Julia Cooper wrote: “One needs occasionally to stand aside from the hum and rush of human interests to hear the voice of God. Sort of like the verse in Psalm 46:10 where it is written, “Be still and know that I am God.” Sometimes we need to take a pause from our normal everyday lives or maybe from the hectic pace that some of us try to keep up, and we need just to listen for the whispers, for the tug and the push of what God is trying to tell us to do or to be. And don’t anyone here say that they are beyond doing anything anymore because they are retired. I come from a family that was taught by our matriarchs, that if you are still here God isn’t done with you yet, or at least there is something else that you are needed to do. I ended with a big thank you for them having me. It was a good experience for me and a wonderful night of getting to know some women better.

I would love to hear from you, so go ahead, comment!

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